There is an iconic image from the 1980 Olympic Games, hosted by Moscow. It will be captured during the closing ceremony.
Attached to balloons like in Disney’s “Up!,” a giant but unbearably cute bear (probably the most romantic mascot ever) takes off from the Olympic stadium to his final journey. At one particular moment, the camera captures a short-haired lady who is waving the bear goodbye. Crying. And smiling.
I was not even born that time, but I saw a documentary featuring this raw moment when I was eight or something. Sitting in the dining room, eating my buckwheat porridge, I couldn’t hold back my tears. And I couldn’t understand why. It was something new and unexplainable – but it was striking me deep into the heart.
What could an eight-year-old boy really have understood? Surely. Nothing. But maybe there are things that don’t need our understanding, but our feeling? Things you don’t get to with your brain or experience, but with your heart and emotion?
Before the Sochi Olympics even started, it was already filled with hate and trolling. Sometimes it had the grounds. But mostly, the source was simple hate – groundless, fierce and disproportionate. The absolutely-everything-Sochi-related hate. And it was at such a scale that it was a tough challenge trying to escape it - be it online, TV or real-life – like sitting next to a drunk stranger at a bar, who’d accuse Putin of stealing all his money for the sake of “bloody” Games.
Oh, the hate. It is almost an inescapable thing in modern Russia. And as the Olympic Rings have been approaching, the hate has been growing. Like Sauron’s force at Mount Doom, feeling the imminence of the Ring of Power.
And then – it is time. When I decide it’s over, I give up. You win, hate. Cause haters gonna hate. Cause haters FTW, right? Drowned and depressed, skeptical and grumbling – I still turn on the broadcast. Come on, fail already, Sochi Olympics, so I can go to sleep earlier!
But minute-by-minute, scene-by-scene – I started turning from a depressed-skeptical-grumbling man to an excited-eight-year-old kid with his eyes overly-wide open. The giant 40,000-capacity stadium turned into something more than an Olympics opening ceremony set. It turned into a scene… No, wait. ‘Scene’ is kind of a boring word here, too mature.
Oh, yes! I got it! It turned into a giant pool! Yes, a giant pool, where kids’ dreams are swimming with dolphins and whales – like that giant whale made of people. Oh, wait – here’s another one – it turned into an inflatable old city, which starts levitating – and everyone is dancing to cheerful sounds of spring! Yes, that’s a good one too! Oh, we need some boys stuff here – yes! It turned into a giant city map, where real people look like toy soldiers, and these soldiers march in a perfect prancing formation!
Yes, the dreams! The fantasy! The boundless fantasy and the immense dreams! What I saw on Friday night was no show. Not a spectacle or performance either. It was something bigger. Something huge. Something you can’t explain, but can totally feel.
When legendary Russian athletes Vladislav Tretyak and Irina Rodnina took their final race towards the cauldron, running through the “human lines” of those 3,000 actors who re-enacted this “fantastic-something,” I believe I was not the only one crying. Both in their 60s, they were running through this symbolic and impersonated corridor of Russian history. But at that moment all I saw was a young and very excited girl named Ira, shining in the light of happiness, and a shy little boy named Slava who was really terrified that the flame might go out.
This is it. My iconic image of the 2014 Olympics. And maybe some day, while eating buckwheat porridge, my young kid will be watching a Sochi documentary featuring this raw image and a tiny tear will suddenly slide down his cheek. It would be something new and unexplainable. But that would be awesome!
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